Please join us for refreshments and interesting discussion of a wide range of books. Meetings are held at 7:00 p.m. at the Crescent Hill Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.
Reading list and 2018 meeting schedule:
January 18: Last Hope Island, by Lynne Olson. When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self-appointed representative of free France. As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as “Last Hope Island.” Getting there, one young emigré declared, was “like getting to heaven.” In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history.
March 15: The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams. Amanda Wingfield, a faded Southern belle of middle age, shares a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son Tom and his older sister, Laura. Although she is a survivor and a pragmatist, Amanda yearns for the comforts and admiration she remembers from her days as a debutante. She is obsessed with finding a suitor (or, as she puts it, a "gentleman caller") for Laura, whose crippling shyness has led her to drop out of high school and who spends much of her time polishing and arranging her collection of little glass animals. Pressured by his mother to help find a caller for Laura, Tom invites an acquaintance from work for dinner. Since winning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1944, the play has been the virtuoso performance for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world.
May 17: The Awakening of Miss Prim, by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera. In this #1 international bestseller, Prudencia Prim accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbors, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside. Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, and lovely company, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy, and the search for happiness.
July 19: A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster. Among the greatest novels of the twentieth century and the basis for director David Lean’s Academy Award-winning film, A Passage to India tells of the clash of cultures in British India after the turn of the century. In exquisite prose, Forster reveals the menace that lurks just beneath the surface of ordinary life, as a common misunderstanding erupts into a devastating affair. What really happened in the Marabar caves? This is the mystery at the heart of Forster's novel, the puzzle that sets in motion events highlighting an even larger question: Can an Englishman and an Indian be friends? The book presents a troubling portrait of colonialism at its worst, and is remarkable for the complexity of its characters.
September 20: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. In this penetrating historical novel, Graham Greene explores corruption and atonement through a priest and the people he encounters. In the 1930s one Mexican state has outlawed the Church, naming it a source of greed and debauchery. The priests have been rounded up and shot by firing squad—save one, the “whisky priest.” On the verge of reaching a safer region, the whisky priest is repeatedly held back by his vocation, even though he no longer feels fit to perform his rites. Always, an adamant lieutenant is only a few hours behind, determined to liberate his country from the evils of the church.
November 15: Making Sense of God, by Timothy Keller. In this thoughtful and inspiring new book, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller invites skeptics to consider that Christianity is more relevant now than ever. Keller argues that human beings cannot live without meaning, justice, and hope and that Christianity, unlike secular materialism, provides the moral and intellectual foundation to support these needs. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives.
Past discussions include:
November 16: The Reason For God, by Timothy Keller (moderated by Shawn Wright). In this apologia for Christian faith, Keller mines material from literary classics, philosophy, anthropology, and a multitude of other disciplines to make an intellectually compelling case for God. In a tightly reasoned defense of faith, he tackles the most common issues that he has found to be stumbling blocks to nonbelievers, such as: “How can there be just one true religion?” “How could a good God allow suffering and send people to hell?” “Has science disproved Christianity?” And, “Can you take the Bible literally?” Keller also traces the modern concept of human rights back to religious roots and exposes the fragility of such rights when shorn from those roots. (From Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist)
September 21: TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann (moderated by Carl Page) A tale of Ireland’s complicated ties with America. The book begins with three transatlantic crossings, each a novella within a novel: Frederick Douglas’s 1845 visit to Ireland; the 1919 flight of British aviators Alcock and Brown; and Senator George Mitchell’s 1998 attempt to mediate peace in Northern Ireland. McCann then loops back to 1863 to launch the saga of the women we’ve briefly met throughout Book One, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan, whose escape from her troubled homeland cracks open the world for her daughter and granddaughter. (Neal Thompson, Amazon.com.)
July 20, 2017: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (moderated by Candice Waters). The Pulitzer Prize-winning story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. When the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, carrying with them a priceless jewel. Meanwhile, the orphan Werner becomes an expert at building radios, which wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth. He travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Doerr brilliantly describes the deprivations of war.
May 18, 2017: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand (moderated by Matt Hall). This is the inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini—a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time.
March 16, 2017: Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee (moderated by Jeremy Pierre). Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—“Scout”—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Childhood memories flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt as a world in painful transition is portrayed.
January 19, 2017: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (moderated by Ken Billings). The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of American fiction. It tells of the mysterious Jay Gatsby’s grand effort to win the love of Daisy Buchanan, the rich girl who embodies for him the promise of the American dream. Deeply romantic in its concern with self-making, ideal love, and the power of illusion, it draws on modernist techniques to capture the spirit of the materialistic, morally adrift, post-war era Fitzgerald dubbed “the jazz age.”
November 17, 2016: A Spool of Blue Thread, by Ann Tyler. This is the story of the Whitshanks, one of those families that radiate togetherness. But they are also like all families, in that the stories they tell themselves reveal only part of the picture. Abby and Red and their four grown children have accumulated not only tender moments, laughter, and celebrations, but also jealousies, disappointments, and carefully guarded secrets. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century, here are four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their anchor, in a poignant yet unsentimental story in praise of family in all its emotional complexity. Dr. Shawn Wright, Associate Professor of Church History at Southern Seminary, will lead the discussion.
September 15, 2016: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates Winner of the 2015 National Book Award, Ta-Nehisi Coates, in a letter to his adolescent son, explores what it is like to inhabit a black body. He considers how we can honestly reckon America’s history of race relations and free ourselves from its burden. He shares the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris.
July 21, 2016: The Road, by Cormac McCarthy In his post-apocalyptic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, McCarthy tells the story of a father and son walking alone through burned-out America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other. McCarthy imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love.
May 19, 2016: Summer for the Gods, by Edward L. Larson Winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History, Larson’s book is regarded by many as the single most authoritative account of one of the 20th century’s most contentious dramas: the Scopes trial that pitted William Jennings Bryan and the anti-Darwinists against a teacher named John Scopes in a famous debate over science, religion, and their place in public education. Larson has added a preface assessing the current state of the battle between creationism and evolution.
March 17, 2016: State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett Pharmaceutical researcher Dr. Marina Singh sets off into the Amazon jungle to investigate the mysterious death of a colleague. But first she must locate the eccentric Dr. Anneck Swenson, a renowned gynecologist who has spent years studying a local tribe where women can conceive well into their middle ages and beyond. Swenson is being paid to find the key to this longstanding childbearing ability by the same company for which Dr. Singh works. As Time magazine stated, Patchett “poses essential philosophical and bioethical arguments in a story reaching a deeply emotional crescendo.”